Thali Easton serves up excellent Indian food with a large helping of authenticity
Walking St Marks Street on a dark winter evening Thali Easton is visible yards away – massive windows show off a jewel-coloured interior decorated with old photos of India and wooden chairs.
After starting out as a street-food truck at Glastonbury 21 years ago, Thali opened as a restaurant first in Montpelier which spawned several other Thalis across Bristol. Having been bought by staff members in 2019, Thali became a 50-cover single entity in Easton that fits right into east Bristol’s bohemia – the restaurant is a big part of the Easton Easter and Celebrating St Marks Road festivals and has been awarded the highest rating by the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Ingredients on its vegan-friendly menu are local and organic where possible, chicken is free-range and, as of last week, coffee is fair trade.
Thali grounds itself in traditional Indian eating practices, its name referring to the metal plate a thali meal is served on, which is a sort of buffet for one featuring items from every ‘flavour category’. Salty, sweet, spicy – you get the gist. Perfect for unfussy eaters who want a bit of everything.
Exuberant owner Pepe bounced over once we’d settled into our seats and asked whether we’d eaten here before. After hearing us answer in the negative, he looked thoroughly delighted and preceded to explain the concepts of thalis and tiffins.
One of the best things about Thali has to be their tiffin scheme, which is neither a crumbly dessert nor an unsustainable business model. It is their zero-waste takeaway solution inspired by the Indian tiffin wallahs, who deliver hot lunches to people at work across India. At Thali Easton you can buy an insulated metal tiffin tin and fill it with a curry of your choice to takeaway for £25, dine at home, and wash it out ready for reuse just like in Mumbai.
Because there were two of us we decide to forgo the one-plate thalis, instead ordering a selection of small bowl curries to share.
The comprehensive drinks menu covers all bases – there’s craft beers and ciders, cocktails, coffees, chai and wines. We go for a Jaipur IPA and a Blow Horn cider inspired by ‘the tailgate of Indian trucks’.
The curries arrive in their tiffins, all beautiful colours and smelling fantastic, with a paratha flatbread and a side of basmati. The Keralan nandan chicken is incredibly tasty and brothy with a hint of cardamom, the chicken soft and infused with spices, a far cry from the ‘dry meat in sauce’ takeaway curries.
The Punjabi paneer is light and gentle and a pleasing contrast to the sweet and spicy Bengali aubergine curry, whose juicy aubergines sit in a tomatoey, almost arrabiata, sauce. Coming out top with the nandan chicken is the incredibly moreish spinach tarka dahl – a fresh, fragrant chickpea dish that satiates without overfilling.
Enticed by Pepe’s description of the raw chocolate cheesecake as a “proper adult’s pleasure”, we order a slice to take home, and boy, is it adult. It’s so gorgeously intense I have to leave half for the next day.
Though the take-home tiffin scheme is a must-try, the restaurant has the kind of whole-hearted atmosphere you never want to leave.
Look out for Thali Easton as they re-enter the festival circuit this summer.
Images: Caitlin Bowring and Thali Easton Facebook page
64–66 St Marks Road, Bristol BS5 6JH / www.thethalirestaurant.co.uk
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